Marine paralyzed in Iraq plans ArtPrize entryA paralyzed U.S. Marine who simply wanted to design a T-shirt has instead inspired a mission that will bring four wounded soldiers to West Michigan to create a unique collaborative art contest entry.
By: The Associated Press, Superior Telegram
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A paralyzed U.S. Marine who simply wanted to design a T-shirt has instead inspired a mission that will bring four wounded soldiers to West Michigan to create a unique collaborative art contest entry.
During their week stay, the five soldiers will work with designers on artwork for up to 15 T-shirts and limited edition Bates military boots that will be incorporated into an ArtPrize entry. The annual ArtPrize contest will provide a total of $550,000 in prize money, including a $200,000 first-place award for the artist who wins the public voting.
Former Marine Cpl. Joshua Hoffman is amazed at how quickly his original idea has grown.
"I don't think he knew this would get that large," said Brenda Johncock, his caretaker, during a news conference Tuesday at Wolverine Company Store in Grand Rapids.
Paralyzed from the chest down by a sniper's bullet in Iraq and unable to speak, Hoffman worked with designer Tyler Way on the T-shirts, nodding yes or no to questions.
The Middleville man has become an inspiration to other soldiers undergoing the rehabilitation process, said Michael Hyacinthe, executive director of Fashion Has Heart. The Grand Rapids-based nonprofit organization was created to support wounded U.S. troops.
"As we start to draw down, and our troops in Afghanistan return and our troops from Iraq are home, there are going to be thousands of individuals in Josh's situation and we need to somehow come together to utilize our resources and just continue to help them be part of society. I think what is so exciting about this initiative is that it gives these soldiers an opportunity to express themselves."
The unique ArtPrize entry may also bring first lady Michelle Obama or Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, to Grand Rapids. Because of their work with military personnel and their families, both have been invited to see the ArtPrize entry when it is unveiled in September, Hyacinthe said.
This year, Wolverine World Wide Inc. is one of several companies bringing its resources to the project. Wolverine plans to put the designs of the five wounded veterans on Bates military boots that could lead to a limited edition boot, according to The Grand Rapids Press.
The soldiers are expected to collaborate June 18-25. Four of the wounded veterans will be flown to Grand Rapids, courtesy of Priceline.com., and stay with host families during their visit.
One of the host families is Brian Cousins, proprietor of the Wolverine store. He linked his company with the project after meeting Way and hearing about his experience working with Hoffman.
"I thought it was a good marriage to have Bates partner up with Fashion Has Heart because Bates puts boots on the vast majority of our soldiers," said Cousins.